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An Introduction to Equalization - A free download from Audio Masterclass

An Introduction to Compression: Basic Compression - A free download from Audio Masterclass

Equipping Your Home Recording Studio - A free download from Audio Masterclass

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Do you find this photo scary? You should.

It looks innocent enough. A couple of little mics inside a piano. But who is in control- the sound engineer or some other force entirely?

I came across this photo in an advert for DPA microphones. Specifically these are the DPA 4061 microphones, which are available with the SMK4061 stereo microphone kit, which comprises a range of mounting accessories.

Now I'm not saying these are bad mics. I've heard DPA microphones and they are remarkably faithful to the sound source. It's just the way these mics are used I have issue with.

Firstly, have you ever put your head inside a piano? Go on, try it. I'll play bars 105 to 119 of Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor and see how you feel after that! 'Deaf' will be one word for it.

No, these microphones are in completely the wrong place to capture the natural sound of the piano.

Also, you can see that each mic is probably around 10 cm from the nearest string. That will make it about 60 cm or so from the furthest string. This will create a massive difference in loudness. So the loudness will vary according to which notes are played.

Now if you have a special purpose in mind, and this sound suits what you want - wrong though it is - then fine. Recording is all about creativity. I have no problem with that.

But my suspicion is that the reason these mics are inside the piano is because they are being used for a TV broadcast. And the director has demanded that the mics are not visible.

So the piano looks good - no nasty microphones surrounding it.

It just doesn't sound good.

But there is worse. What if, horror of horrors...?

The sound engineer himself or herself chose to use the mics like this because it's more convenient than using stands!

OK, there's one excuse. If the piano is to be moved, the mics will move with the piano. During a live show that might be a worthwhile convenience.

But just to save setting up a couple of stands. No, no, no.

Sound engineers all want to achieve the best sound possible. Well nearly all. And sometimes we have to stand up to people that would make us compromise.

Next time, use the biggest mics you can find, on the chunkiest stands. Position them to perfection and get exactly the sound you want, without compromise.

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By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
Learn music production